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Your Parenting Mojo - Respectful, research-based parenting ideas to help kids thrive - Jen Lumanlan 13th December 2020
SYPM 010: From Anxious Overwhelm to Optimistic Calm
00:00:00 00:24:08

SYPM 010: From Anxious Overwhelm to Optimistic Calm

In this Sharing Your Parenting Mojo episode we hear from listener Anne, who has been in my Parenting Membership for a year now. In our conversation we discussed the anxiety she used to feel about every aspect of parenting, including the things she wanted to teach her son to do (Spanish! Coding!) and how she interacted with both him and with her husband.


She actually joined the Parenting Membership to learn how to become the perfect parent, and I'm sorry to say that I failed as her teacher/guide in that regard. She is not a perfect parent (and neither am I), but she is now a perfectly good enough parent, and has been able to relax into her relationship with her son because of that.


I hope you enjoy this raw, vulnerable conversation where Anne reflects on the changes she has made in her life over the last year.



[accordion-item title="Click here to read the full transcript"]

Jen 00:03

Hi, I’m Jen and I host the Your Parenting Mojo podcast where I critically examine strategies and tools related to parenting and child development that are grounded in scientific research and principles of respectful parenting. In this series of episodes called Sharing Your Parenting Mojo, we turn the tables and hear from listeners. What have they learned from the show that’s helped their parenting? Where are they still struggling? And what tools can we find in the research that will help? If you’d like to be notified when new episodes are released and get a FREE Guide to 7 Parenting Myths We Can Safely Leave Behind, seven fewer things to worry about, subscribe to the show at YourParentingMojo.com. You can also continue the conversation about the show with other listeners in the Your Parenting Mojo Facebook group. I do hope you’ll join us.


Jen 00:59

Hello, and welcome to the Your Parenting Mojo podcast. Today we're going to hear from a special guest Anne, who is a parent whom I work with on a regular basis. She's going to tell us about the anxiety that she used to feel to be the perfect parent to her son, which threatened to overwhelm her and potentially even her marriage. She actually joined my membership a couple of years ago hoping it would teach her how to become the perfect parent. And in some ways, she didn't get what she paid for at all. And another she got so much more.


Jen 01:28

Unfortunately, she didn't learn how to become the perfect parent. Instead, she realized there's no such thing as a perfect parent and that trying to be the perfect parent was tearing her apart. She learns new communication tools which we teach as a way of helping parents to get on the same page about the parenting decisions they're making, But of course, they're applicable to other kinds of conversations as well. So now she's able to talk with her husband in a way that doesn't get his back up, that helps him to understand her needs, and she's able to hear and understand his needs, and they can work together to find solutions to all kinds of problems, not just those related to parenting.


Jen 02:02

She's become deeply involved in anti-racist work, and if you join the membership, you'll actually find her leading our anti-racist group activities. When she's learned how to stand up to family members, when they say something that she finds deeply offensive. She used to just be offended and let it slide and be seething on the inside, but she doesn't do that anymore, and she knows how to decide which of these kinds of issues that families disagree on are okay to let go, and which are worth taking a stand on. And she's become increasingly confident over the last few months to take a stand on those things that she knows are important to her. So, she's learning how to set boundaries with people that she's never felt able to set boundaries with before, which is setting a great example for her son who's watching and learning from her.


Jen 02:45

So, in some ways, she's become more rigid where she used to be so flexible that her needs weren't being met. And in other ways, she's become much more flexible, where she used to be very rigid. She doesn't worry anymore about teaching her son coding, or Spanish, or any of the other skills that she wants thought were critical to his success and to her role as a good parent. Instead, she sees her son for who he is, and she's able to meet his needs rather than imposing on him what she used to feel she had to deliver to him in her role as the perfect parent.


Jen 03:17

Anne it's just one of the amazing parents that I've had the honor to work with in my memberships over the last couple of years. Some of them are former perfect parents, other parents who were just about holding it together and have found a similar sense of calm and clarity as they connect with their child's needs and have let all the unimportant stuff go. I'd love to work with you as well, no matter where you are in your parenting journey.


Jen 03:38

To learn more about the memberships go to YourParentingMojo.com/memberships.


Jen 03:44

I'm here today with a listener. Anne. Anne, thanks so much for joining us. It's so great to see you.


Anne 03:48

Hello, good to see you too.


Jen 03:51

So, I wonder if you could tell us maybe a little bit about your family and yourself as well. And, and we're going to talk about kind of a transformation that's happened in your parenting over the last couple of years. So maybe you can just set the stage by telling us a bit about who you are and who you live with.


Anne 04:06

Sure. Yeah. So, my name is Anne. And I have a two-and-a-half-year-old son Anderson. And we live with his father, my husband, Jeff, and let's see. Yeah, I work in STEM and education for university. I really like what I do. That's nice. I have great work life balance. So that's awesome, too. Yeah, we live in Arizona. Flagstaff, Arizona, so it's actually snowing here today.


Jen 04:36

Yes. You're getting all the snow; we're getting all the sun.


Anne 04:40

Yes. Strange weather. Yeah.


Jen 04:43

So, I wonder if you can tell me about some things that are important to you as an individual and, and the values that you really had as you were thinking about having children and starting to raise a child.


Anne 04:55

Right. Yes. So, I actually did quite a bit of thought into this. about two and a half years ready before I had my son. So, I just, yeah, I thought a lot about what kind of world I was bringing him into and what kind of world I wanted to set up for him and what our values might be. So yeah, above all, I believe in just compassion, empathy, equity, respect for all people, including, you know, and that doesn't exclude anyone, even people that exclude other people, for instance. And also, to some degree, just the ecosystem, so the living and nonliving things in our life. And I really, I try to live by that. And I'd like to raise my son to live by that.


Jen 05:46

Yeah. And so, you joined the Finding Your Parenting Mojo membership a couple of years ago, and I wonder if you can tell me a little bit about what was going on in your mind when you made that decision to join? What were you trying to achieve?


Anne 06:00

Oh, yes, good questions. My goals have shifted a little bit. Yeah, at the time, it was my goal, you know, to have my son speak Spanish, and to be versed in coding, and all these things. And I really just wanted to be like the perfect parent. I wanted to, like, give him the stage set for any kind of life that he wanted to live. And that was very exhausting. And yeah, like, not possible, really. So, when I joined, I was really looking to become like a perfect parent. But what it's done is much different than that, right?


Jen 06:40

Yeah, a little bit.


Anne 06:41

It certainly helped me grow as a parent, but it's also helped me shift my perspective as to kind of where I want to put my energy and how to make it effective.


Jen 06:53



Anne 06:54

I already...


Jen 06:55

And how did that process start for you?


Anne 06:57

So, it started, I guess, by reading, reading guides, listening to your podcasts, and kind of checking out some ancillary materials, you know, that you have provided. And then also, I think the big leap for me was participating in the membership calls. So, interacting with other people that share the same goals, creating kind of a community. And just seeing the different examples of ways people are doing it, and how they're fitting in and through their lives. It really started to shift things in my life as opposed to just absorbing massive amounts of information.


Jen 07:38

Mm hmm. Yeah, this is a common tendency isn't it? It's when we feel like something isn't right, that we it's just we haven't read the right book yet. We just need more information.


Anne 07:49

Right? Yeah. I read a lot of books. Changed a lot what I was doing


Jen 07:57

Yeah. And so, what do you think might have happened if you've gone down that path that you were on? Where do you think that would have taken you as a parent? And then your relationship with your son?


Anne 08:08

Good question. I did reach a tipping point, kind of with my exhaustion. And yeah, just reached a level of anxiety that was alarming. And we all realized as a family, oh, wait, we need to change something here. This isn't working. So yeah, I was just very kind of overwhelmed and filled with anxiety, mostly. And I wonder, you know, if that tipping point hadn't have happened, and they just kind of kept chugging along on that path, you know, I think some possible outcomes could have been parental burnout, work, life burnout, potentially even divorce. Hopefully not. But you know, those things that, you know, tend to happen when you just kind of keep chugging along in a fear based, anxious state. I'm happy to be off that track.


Jen 09:03

Oh, wow. Okay, so I wonder then, if you can tell us a bit about how this transformation happened between that place where you were, that was very fear and anxiety based to what seems like a very different path. What was the beginning? Like?


Anne 09:18

Yeah, so I mean, like, with all transformative change, it came from multiple directions, right? You know, there was some of the different topics we covered in the membership group like parenting as a team - pairing with your partner - you know, that kind of broadened in the marriage aspect, like how can I improve my relationship to improve my parenting. And then goal setting and reducing anxiety, self-compassion, you know, all these things that these ideas that I hadn't really been introduced to in any sort of helpful way before. So, you know, it starts with the idea and then just trying to incorporate it, like, okay, here's a situation where I recognize this is what's happening, how can I actually incorporate what I'm learning about, and hearing about, and talking about with other people into this? How can I bring that into this situation? So, it's been like, kind of a practice.


Anne 10:20

And yeah, like talking about things that have, here's a situation that happened in the past, and I anticipate it's going to happen again, like, bringing up those examples and talking through, Well, how could I have done this better? or What can I do next time. So it is, the difference is bringing it into your personal life as a practice. And being able to talk with you, being able to talk with other parents on this journey about what they might do in your specific situation really makes the difference, I think.


Jen 10:56

Yeah, and I've been impressed in the times that we've interacted on our group calls, you lay yourself out there, and you get kind of vulnerable. And it's, it's not required, there are some people who will, will definitely kind of hold things back. And they're looking for a situation or a solution to a certain situation. But you will kind of say, you know, this is what's going on for me right now. And it's hard. And I think that that really allows us to get below the surface level, "Oh, well, my child's misbehaving, what do I do?" to what's really underneath this and how do we work on that stuff? Because that's, I mean, that's the stuff of life, right? That's the really important stuff.


Anne 11:34

Yeah, no, I mean, being vulnerable is extremely important to grow. And, yeah, every time that I have been vulnerable on these calls, and our groups and everything like that, it's helped me get out of that. Whatever, undesirable situation, I'm in that I may not want to share it because I'm embarrassed, I'm able to actually move through it, and then it's no longer an issue. So, I don't even have to be embarrassed about it anymore because it's not there anymore. So yeah, I think it's really important. And it does, it helps to have the community that you know, will be supportive to be able to bring that, those things up.


Jen 12:20

Hmm. I wonder if you can talk us through a specific challenge that you've had, and something that maybe it just, just seemed like, there wasn't a way out of this paper bag and then how that shifted for you. Is there is an example that pops to mind?


Anne 12:36

Yes, I mean, there's a lot of... There's so many things that I worked through after, you know, a lifetime of really not addressing them this year. So, yeah, I think one really surprising thing out of this, you know, improve my parenting goal which I'm a part of here is that it's actually helped me address some things in my relationship with my mother which has always been very complicated. We just have gone through several periods of, you know, not getting along to kind of tolerating each other, and then going back into the not getting along.


Anne 13:15

And so, one of the things that I was able to do in the membership just through kind of these interactions with the community, is kind of stand up to her about some non-inclusive political beliefs that she was just spouting. And, you know, I've never really stood up to my mother for myself, I've always just kind of changed the subject or walked away, or, you know, just sit there, and listen with a scowl on my face or something like that. And so, kind of when we were talking about this, like how to raise anti-racist children how to be less racist, more anti-racist yourself, then I was thinking, you know, I do I need to stand up to her about this thing.


Anne 14:06

And so, she said something that I didn't agree with. It was about like blue versus pink diapers or something. And I was just, you know, and I found it offensive. And I was like, "I'm upset that you said that." And that's all it took. I didn't have to elaborate. I didn't have to try to present any data, any argument, you know, like, nothing. That's all it took. And she's basically like, I'd never stood up to my mother about anything. So that gave me the confidence to stand up to her about stuff that mattered to me and my relationship with her, in my relation, in my son's relationship with her. And since I've kind of been able to address some of these things head on as they come up, and be like, "Hey, I don't want you to treat my son that way. Or I don't want you to treat me that way. That's not fair." And to her credit, she's been super responsive and very apologetic. And so, it's a two-way street, right? But if you never stand up for yourself, then you never would know, right? And you'd never have the opportunity to improve the situation. So, our relationship, my relationship with my mother has improved, as well as my son's relationship with his grandmother.


Jen 15:23

Yeah, I didn't know you're going to bring up this example, but I remember that you recently visited with her, right? And had a kind of a breakthrough in that relationship. Would you mind speaking about that?


Anne 15:36

Yeah, so we visited for three weeks, because you know, COVID world and like, if you're going to travel, I'm working from home anyways. So where does it matter where I am. So, so we visited for three weeks, that's just an extremely long amount of time. And at one point, we were packing, I'm packing for a weekend with my husband and my son, we're going to take their camper and kind of get away from the vacation for a vacation from a vacation. And my son wanted to pack some blocks that my mother had bought him to play with. Well, she kind of has her own thing about toys, and you know, what's hers and things mean a lot to her. And I was totally triggered because I was like, "You!" You know, in my in my inner child head I'm like, "You never let me play with the toys I wanted to play with." And, you know, "You always controlled the way I played with them." And now that you're telling my son, my two-year-old son that he can't take these blocks that you bought them, like, I'm super triggered. So, I just, you know, I threw an adult tantrum, and I was just throwing them blocks in the bag. And then later, when she, we kind of came together to reconcile and apologize, I was like, "You know, what I was triggered, I was triggered because of trauma from childhood that I had around toys. And that you, you know, you wouldn't let me play with toys the way I wanted to, you wouldn't let me play with certain toys. They always had to be, how you saw them, and which toys and it was just very controlling." And so, she was basically like, "Wow, okay, I'm really sorry, I did that." And then fast forward three days, she was like, "I remember doing this to you. I remember that American Girl doll that you wanted. Not getting it for you. Buying you a porcelain doll that you weren't allowed to play with. I remember these things. And I'm sorry, I'm really sorry."


Jen 17:40

Wow, first time I'm hearing all the details is giving me the shivers.


Anne 17:42

And so, no, it was really... And through that process she was kind of able to remember some good things about that. Like, because I wasn't allowed to play with toys, I just went outside. So, I've had, I have a lifelong love of the outdoors. So, I mean, that's not too bad. And you know, it's kind of, Yeah, it's just and how could my mother have known how that would affect me? You know, like, she don't know what you don't know. And she has her childhood stuff about toys. And so, I was able to forgive her completely.


Jen 18:19

How did that feel?


Anne 18:20

Amazing. Like, I don't even mind talking to her on the phone now. Like it's awesome.


Jen 18:24



Anne 18:24

And that hasn't always been the case.


Jen 18:30

Yeah, yeah. Wow. That's, that's amazing to hear. And how has this shifted your relationship with your son as well?


Anne 18:38

Yeah. So, prior to this, my relationship with my son, I was just filled with anxiety about being the perfect parent. And so being around him was exhausting for me. And I felt the need to actually, I felt this desperate need to jumpstart my career again, because I needed the time away. And it wasn't even now I realized it wasn't even time away from him. It was time away from my head, trying to be the perfect parent. Like, it was time away from me trying to fill this role that was impossible. And so, once I released that, like, I actually don't have to be the perfect parent. Like, if I make a mistake, I can apologize.


Jen 19:21



Anne 19:23

Just tell them I made a mistake and then that teaches them how to apologize and how to recover from mistakes and it's amazing. So, once I was able to release the stress and the anxiety of trying to be perfect around him, I was able to get close to him and be there with him and like now I thoroughly enjoy my time with him. Like I block out hours of quality time, you know, every day if it can't happen every day, it happens double the next. And we like connect and we have fun together and you know if he's having a tough time I'm there for him. And we're able to connect through that. And it's very, very enjoyable to be his mother now. And so, and obviously, like, he feels more comfortable around me because I'm relaxed, and I'm there for him. So, he's been able to like, open up and be more of himself as well.


Jen 20:21



Anne 20:22

Yeah, even with the two-and-a-half-year-old. You can see that personality shining through is beautiful.


Jen 20:29

So, I'm just wondering if you could kind of draw it together? How does it feel right now this path that you're on? How does it feel for you where you are right now? Where you see yourself going?


Anne 20:40

Right? Yeah, I mean, I feel super optimistic, very hopeful. And, yeah, very inspired, just by my own situation, like, look at all I have accomplished, like, I can do even more. You know, like, all these things that still bother me, they're problems that I can solve. They're not just nebulous states of reality that I have no control over. So yeah, I feel really great about it. You know, when I dig into one of those things, it's achy, it's painful, it's growing pains, you know, but it's good, because I'm actually able to solve these things. And I'm able to move on from them not have them be this like, burden, heavy thing that's dragging me down. So yeah, I feel awesome about it.


Jen 21:30

Hmm. Is there one nugget of wisdom that you'd like to share with people who are listening?


Anne 21:36

Oh, gosh, I mean, the power lies in you. Like your attention directed at yourself, it just creates ripple effects. You know? If you change yourself, just sends those out into the world and all these people that you're trying to control, these situations you're trying to control, just let that go. And if you change how you, you know, respond to things and how you approach things, then all of those problems seem to magically just kind of reconcile themselves. Because, you know, like, I'm not saying it's everything, like, you know, I can't change a national-political climate. But, you know, I can actually change my family's attitudes towards, you know, how we interact with each other over politics, right. So, like, it actually kind of softens the divide a little bit. Just doing your own inner work. So, it's amazing. It's very powerful.


Jen 22:39

We need a lot of softening in the world right now. So...


Anne 22:41

Yes. Yeah, we do.


Jen 22:46

Thank you so much for being here and sharing your experience with us. It's, it's truly been my honor to walk alongside you on this journey and to see this happen kind of stage by stage and see you incorporate all this learning and take it on and not just cognitively understand it, but live it. To truly live it. It's been my honor to work with you.


Anne 23:06

Yes. And thank you for bringing this approach into my life. It has been truly transformative.


Jen 23:12

Awesome. Well, if anyone who's listening would like to learn more about the memberships, you can go to YourParentingMojo.com and find all the information there.


Jen 23:19

Thanks again for being with us, Anne. It was a real pleasure talking with you.


Anne 23:22

Thank you.


Jen 23:23

Don't forget that you can learn more about the memberships and sign up at YourParentingMojo.com/memberships. Doors closed December 31., so don't wait. I hope to see you there.


Jen 23:34

Thanks for joining us for this episode of Your Parenting Mojo. Don't forget to subscribe to the show at YourParentingMojo.com to receive new episode notifications, and the FREE Guide to Seven Parenting Myths That We Can Leave Behind and join the Your Parenting Mojo Facebook group.


Jen 23:49

For more respectful research-based ideas to help kids thrive and make parenting easier for you, I'll see you next time on Your Parenting Mojo.